The Role of Voice in the Era of Conversational AI

By September 10, 2018Natural Dialog
The Role of Voice in the Era of Conversational AI

Using a new technology has always required us to understand it first. We had to communicate with the technology on its terms. That is why even a simple task could lead us to deal with complicated interfaces. Because we had to understand the technology. But things have changed… and now the technology can understand us. Even when we speak on our own terms.

Thanks to conversational artificial intelligence (AI) platforms, we can interact with technological devices in a human-like way. From chatbots to smart home assistants and IVR systems to messaging apps, these platforms offer a wide range of uses. As a form of AI, conversational AI enables human-machine interaction via conversational inputs including voice, text, gesture, and so on.

Conversational AI Use Cases

Conversational AI allows organizations to build conversational interfaces. From enterprise solutions to end user applications, these interfaces aim to provide a practical solution for any user. They also offer different uses, with chatbots and virtual assistants probably the best-known examples.

Chatbots are conversational solutions that enable human-machine interaction via text or voice. Compared to virtual assistants, chatbots may have a narrower focus. They are typically used for specific tasks such as obtaining technical support, ordering food, or booking flights. Chatbots can offer solutions both for enterprises and end users.

Virtual assistants (also called AI assistants or intelligent assistants), are conversational applications that understand users’ demands and complete tasks for them. Virtual assistants are available in different forms. While some types, like virtual customer assistants, are used in customer service automation, others, like home assistants, are intended for personal use.

Conversational IVR systems are also a common use of conversational AI. Unlike traditional IVR systems, conversational IVRs enable users to navigate across menus by speaking naturally. This means that instead of using a touch-tone menu, customers can state their questions or concerns to the system using plain language.

Why Conversational AI?

Conversational AI offers different benefits both for organizations and users. On the customer side, the technology offers practical features, time savings, and easy transactions. These benefits mean a better experience for customers.

For organizations, conversational AI is an effective technology that enhances the customer experience, increases self-service rates, minimizes workload, and reduces costs.

Conversational AI can be used in different applications. For example, when implemented in customer service operations, a conversational AI interface can save users from navigating across complex website or IVR menus. This not only serves a practical purpose but also reduces wait times. In addition, the need for customer representatives decreases due to the self-service ability these interfaces provide. This means reduced operational costs and increased overall business efficiency.

According to Gartner, conversational platforms are among the top ten strategic technology trends of 2018, and they will continue to evolve into more complex systems. Gartner also predicts that conversational platforms will differentiate themselves by the flexibility in their conversational models.

This points to the importance of voice as a natural interface in conversational platforms. In fact, voice plays an absolutely crucial role in the growth of conversational user interfaces. Thanks to advancements in Natural Language Processing (NLP) technology, more devices now allow voice-enabled interaction.

Why Voice-Enabled Conversational AI?

As devices become smaller and the touchscreen replaces buttons, keyboard input may not always be a convenient option. By contrast, users can employ voice interactions to easily perform a variety of tasks. These include obtaining information about weather and traffic, playing music, listening to the latest news, sending messages, controlling connected devices, and so on. Voice is thus a form of conversational AI and plays a growing role in the interactions across devices.

Voice-enabled conversational AI differentiates itself with the benefits described below.

Natural Dialog

Human speech is complex and includes slang, multi-string words, and fragments. When integrating with various systems, users expect to have a natural conversation. They don’t want to be restricted to limited, pre-selected words and phrases. Thanks to continuous developments in NLP, voice-enabled AI applications meet users’ expectations. With the help of this technology, users can interact with machines in plain language as if they were talking to a person.

Omnichannel Service

Omnichannel interactions are on the rise, and many organizations are working hard to adopt an omnichannel customer service strategy. Voice-enabled AI contributes to omnichannel customer service, which enables organizations to engage with their customers across various channels and devices. Customers can start a voice interaction on any channel and switch to another one, still using their own voice. This holistic approach means not only integrated, multi-channel customer service but also a smooth customer journey.

Reduced Costs

Voice-enabled AI increases automation. Technologies like Speech Enabled IVR, Virtual Assistant, and Chatbot allow customers to self-serve using natural dialog. Increasing self-service rates leads to reduced reliance on human assistance, so customers no longer have to depend on human efforts to obtain the services they need. They can seamlessly interact with various channels without the need for a human assistant. This not only provides valuable self-service for customers but also allows organizations to control labor costs.  Since customers can complete transactions in fewer steps, the technologies also shorten transaction times, which also creates cost savings.

Higher Security

In conversational AI implementations, the human voice supports various security considerations. Since each voice is as unique as fingerprints, it is used as a biometric measure. Unlike PINs, passwords, and answers to challenge questions, voice biometrics can’t be compromised without the knowledge of the voice’s owner. This makes voice authentication far more secure than traditional security measures. Voice authentication provides fast, easy verification of customers’ identities through their own voices. This contributes to an enhanced customer experience.

Besides eliminating human assistance due to higher rates of self-service, automation also contributes to higher security. With automation, users do not need to share any personal information with customer representatives.

Enhanced Customer Experience

Voice plays a powerful role in enhancing the customer experience. The human voice is helpful by nature; it transforms any device into a conversational interface and enables natural interactions. For example, a voice-enabled smart home assistant easily completes daily tasks by understanding user requests expressed in natural speech. Since voice can be integrated into different applications, these voice-enabled technologies also contribute to omnichannel customer service. This means that customers are free to choose any channel or application to obtain the services they need; they can even start a transaction on one channel and complete it on another.

Conclusion

The growing use of conversational devices makes voice a perfect fit for easy interactions. Using their voices enables customers to control their devices in a natural way, especially when key-driven interfaces are not available or convenient.

Advances in NLP technology have increased the importance of voice-enabled solutions as conversational AI technologies. By allowing organizations to deliver sophisticated conversational interfaces, these solutions contribute to intelligent customer interactions and efficient self-service automation.

Sestek develops voice-enabled conversational AI solutions. The solutions are offered under the name of Natural Dialog Solutions. They combine various voice technologies with NLP. Sestek’s Natural Dialog Solutions include Speech Enabled IVR, Virtual Assistant and Chatbot. To learn more about these technologies, you can visit Sestek’s Natural Dialog Solutions page.

Author Hilal Bakanay

Senior Marketing Specialist, Sestek https://www.linkedin.com/in/hilalbakanay/

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